Tag Archives: family

We are failing as multilingual parents.

OK a major revelation from me…
We may be bringing up our children multilingually, but the aspirations and reality are often very different.
My children all hit an age time for where they refused to speak German unless it really suited them (when they wanted sweets or chocolate for instance). As a bilingual parent this is a nightmare. We did a lot of soul searching as to where we had gone wrong, but just had to let it ride. My middle daughter Jasmin is almost ten and now starting to answer our German by speaking German herself. She made a friend whose parents speak German and who has a German Au-Pair which helped her confidence a lot. Jasmin has even started to ask “How do you say … in German?”

The highlight of my week was when we saw some Apple Strudel on a stall in town. Jasmin said “Apfelstrudel!” and the Hungarian lady on the stall continued the conversation in German. We ordered and bought what we wanted in German and Jasmin followed our conversation and said Danke and Bitte in the correct places.

She finally wants to speak German! We were in the Polish shop recently and she said goodbye in Polish: Dziękuję

The whole exposure to other languages and cultures we have been doing since she was tiny, is finally paying off.

My eldest son is 17 now and I will finally admit he dropped GCSE languages (huge shame for me to admit this). However, if he hears French he continues in French, he learnt some Dutch with Duolingo, he has an awesome accent and knows more Dutch than me and his dad. He learnt some Polish with UTalk and joins us in Polish conversations. Languages are such a part of his life he actually forgot to put them on his CV!

As a multilingual parent, there are no failures, just learning experiences for you all. No parent does a perfect job, our personal parenting goal is not to make too much of a mess of parenting.

So, I’ve finally admitted I’m not a perfect parent or a perfect multilingual parent either and it’s not going too badly. How is your family language learning journey going?

Inspirational mum Reem from Ossass-Stories.

July’s inspirational mum is Reem, author and publisher from Ossass-Stories.

 

What is your career background?

After studying English at university, I started working as a translator and researcher in Jerusalem, mainly with The New York Times. In 2006, when I was 26, the Israel-Lebanon war broke out, and I urged my boss to let me go to the frontline because I knew the area well. It was my first major journalistic assignment. I realised that being fluent in Arabic would be even more of an advantage in video than in print, so I taught myself how to film and edit video. In 2009 I started doing videos for The New York Times, going into the field, interviewing people, filming them, writing my own scripts and editing together the video reports. In 2012 I moved to New York, and was hired as a staff video journalist by The Wall Street Journal. I mainly covered Middle East affairs, the war in Syria and Iraq, the rise of ISIS and the refugee crisis.

 

How did your career change after having children?

I put my career on hold twice, both times after giving birth to my daughters. After my first, in 2011, I waited 9 months before going back to freelance video journalism, although I was able to do some translation before that. I really enjoyed being a mother, but I also loved my work as a journalist, and I was happy that I could be both. I was happier and more fulfilled, and although I had originally intended to stay at home longer to bring my daughter up bilingual in Arabic and English, it very quickly became clear that she was learning more words and language skills when she was at a nursery interacting with other children her own age and other adults. There was a similar pattern after my second daughter was born in New York in 2015. I left my job at The Wall Street Journal when I was 9 months pregnant, spent the first 18 months with her – and settling my family into a new life in London. I only recently started freelancing again, but I have spent the last few months working on building up my small business, which publishes Arabic books for children.

 

Where did the idea for your business come from?

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Or, in my case, the mother who invented. Arabic has two registers: formal and colloquial. All books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes  – even for children – use the formal version of the language. That was very frustrating to me as a child, to read children, animals and cartoon characters talking like lawyers and newspaper editorials. When I became a mother I just couldn’t read those books out aloud to my children. So I decided to write children’s books in colloquial Arabic. Things are changing in the Arab world – satellite television channels have familiarised people with other Arabic dialects, and social media has got people accustomed to the idea that it is all right to write as you speak. Other mothers and fathers in the Arab diaspora told me they felt the same, and that it was more important for their children to learn to speak to their grandparents and cousins than to struggle their way through high, formal Arabic texts.

I talked with my husband about this idea in March 2014 and we published our first book in December 2015. When I got the first actual solid book in my hands, it really was a huge feeling of achievement, an affirmation that we were doing something new, and a little bit revolutionary.

 

What drives you do what you do?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was always in the back of my mind, but I never really formulated a plan. But then the world changed around me and I realised that we were living in an era of mass migration of Arabs to Europe, America and elsewhere.

As someone who lives in the Arab diaspora I saw these new arrivals turn up – as a journalist I even went to interview some of them – and it became even more important to me that we should have a new children’s literature in Arabic, featuring the contemporary world. Our books feature a confident, outgoing young Arab girl who feels entirely at home in places like New York. Because it is her city. That is how our oldest daughter defines herself if anyone asks her where she is from: she says “I am from New York City.” I love that. And I want books that show Arabs living in the West comfortably, being an integral part of the scenery, fluent in the language and culture. It’s a passion to me.

 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I was really surprised by how quickly an idea became a real product. It all started one evening in March 2014. I was frustrated after reading a bedtime story to my daughter in formal Arabic. I went to the living room and told my husband that I wanted to write children’s books in colloquial Arabic. It was a eureka moment, it was so obvious to me that this needed to be done, and I had no doubt in my heart or mind that I was going to do it. My husband was so positive, encouraging and very excited about the idea. I started with my research work that evening. I contacted an illustrator the next day after seeing his work on the internet. We found a lawyer to help us set up our own publishing house, we signed a contract with the illustrator two months later, and our first book was published a year and a half after the idea was born. We’ve just published our second book, and I couldn’t be prouder.

 

Who is your target audience?

Our books are mainly designed for Arab children living in the diaspora. But since we started selling, we have also seen interest from college and university students, who are studying colloquial Arabic, but can’t find books to practise it. The book is now on the shelves of public libraries in New York, Norway and Sweden, and in bookshops in cities around the world where there is an Arab community.Our books are for everyone who enjoys a good story. We’re even thinking to translate it into other languages, including English.

 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Most of it is done on social media. We have a Facebook page, and Twitter and Instagram accounts. We also have people who subscribe to our emailed newsletters. We have held readings in schools and colleges and we have a pink business card in the shape of a bookmark that we send out with every book, and encourage people to tell a friend. We are right now preparing for an Arabic cultural street festival in New York – where we had a stall last year – and for our first one in London. I tell everyone I meet about our books, because I am very proud of it, and also I would like people to spread the word. It’s a lot of work.

 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I think that there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage to be a mother and a business woman. There’s so much work to do when it’s your own business, every little decision from deciding the name of your company, to designing your logo, to choosing the paper thickness of the books, to writing the best promotional post on Facebook. Much of it is up to me, although my husband does help as much as he can while doing a full time job in journalism. Publishing involves a lot of back and forth with printers, smoothing out the text and pictures with the illustrator, and with the friends and colleagues who are more fluent in, say, the Egyptian dialect than I am. My husband and I both post the books personally – those sent from London, at least – which takes up time but provides an enormously satisfying moment when another envelope gets sent on its way.

 

So, I would say that time is my biggest obstacle. Being a mother to an 18-month-old toddler also means there are some feelings of guilt. Am I giving my younger daughter enough attention? But I also see that my older daughter is immensely proud to see her life chronicled in books that are – loosely – based on her life. And I am proud to see a small publishing house that started from nothing growing every day.

 

And your proudest moment/biggest success so far?

I think the happiest and proudest moment for me was when I first saw the first copy of our first book. I was 9 months pregnant, very heavy, and it was an incredibly emotional moment. We had worked for months on the story, the illustrations, the backstory, the rollout plan. It was more than anything a lesson that you can do anything with persistence, hard work and big dreams. Nothing beats the feeling of working for your own company. Seeing it all come together… it was almost like giving birth. But much less painful.

 

Who inspires you?

I admire ambitious women. I remember a few years ago I used to follow a New York Times video series featuring business women from different backgrounds who started from zero and built their business empires. And I remember so clearly looking at their stories and thinking “I want to do the same! I want to have an idea and turn it into a successful business model.”

NEWSFLASH
Reem will be appearing at some amazing cultural festivals over the summer. To find out more read her newsletter.
Full name: 

Reem Makhoul

Author and Publisher

 

Company: 

Ossass-Stories

(Publishing House | Children’s books in colloquial Arabic)

 

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/OssassStories

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/OssassStories

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/arabicbooksforchildren/

Website: www.Ossass-Stories.com

Emailcontact@Ossass-Stories.com

 

How to Promote Your Child’s Development with Modern Toys

This week we have guest post from Rachel Summers.
How to Promote Your Child’s Development with Modern Toys

All kids love toys, that’s a given. It’s something that all parents deal with, and most of us actively encourage. Not only do we love seeing our kids happy, but we know it’s important to keep them entertained if we want to get anything at all done throughout the day. However, most importantly, we know that toys and playing can be amazing for our child’s development. It’s important to know what kind of development your child should be aiming for at each age, and their key milestones. Information on this is available at Child Development Info. The following tips can help you make sure that the toys you get for your child are the most helpful in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional growth.

1. Set a Foundation with Social Skills

Social skills are the first steps to your baby’s development, and they can start really early with games that involve sharing or taking turns. This could be with passing a ball or building blocks together. As your baby grows into a child, board games that involve multiple players and interaction can be a great way to teach them social skills.

2. Find Games That Encourage Creativity

Any game that encourages creativity is great for a child’s development. The parts of their brains that imagine things when they are children develop as they grow, creating creative thinkers and problem solvers. You can build on this as they grow, which could help them in the work place in later life. Games where your child uses their imagination are games without wrong endings, and with multiple options, so your child can become flexible and not need any rigid rules. Business magazines such as Forbes describe in detail how creative thinking is essential in the modern workplace, and that you can instill these skills early.

3. Tailor Games for Toddlers

Once your baby has grown out of some of their basic toys, you can start teaching them things like shapes and colours, as well as helping them practice their motor skills. These skills can help your child grow into happy, healthy, and active adults. Providing your toddlers with motor skills can give them confidence in their physical ability which is great when they start school.

4. Make the Most of Technology

We all hear how kids are going to be zombies who can’t interact with real people, because they spend all of their time with iPads or in front of a TV. And letting your child watch mindless TV or play silly games isn’t good for them in huge amounts – however you can utilise technology to your advantage. On a single tablet you can have thousands of story books, educational games and activities, and even apps to help develop a flair for writing, art, or music. Much like businesses will use UK Top Writers to make sure their content is flawless, parents can use apps and websites to build on their parenting skills and make sure they’re doing everything they can for their child.

5. Develop Their Language Skills

At a certain age, all babies will be able to talk. However, their level of language and their ability to express themselves can vary massively, so finding toys that are interactive, that speak or ask them to speak, and that address emotions and feelings can help them grow. Many adults struggle with communication, so you are doing your child a massive favour by helping them build on this skill as early as possible.

There will be times when a toy is just for fun. However, the rest of the time toys should be used to help your child advance and grow into a capable school child and confident adult, and assessing whether a toy meets any of the criteria described above is a great way of checking whether a toy is really good for your little one.

Games for Language Learning? For Children and Adults!

This week we have a guest blog from Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Games for language. Like us they are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. Over the them…

 

When you watch young children at play, you know: children love playing games. For them games are a way to explore the world around them and to try out how things work.

 

Indeed, many parents help their young children acquire their first language in a playful way. Who hasn’t imitated the sound of a cow or a dog for a child and matched it with the picture and/or word of the animal?

 

As young children learn to speak, they start to identify objects, learn letters and numbers, spell simple words, sing songs, etc.

 

Parents and caregivers often turn such a learning activity into a game they play with children.

 

Also, many children now play games on toy tablets or their parent’s tablet or phone. Some of the games are language based and improve a child’s native language skills.

DIGITAL GAMES

For digital language learning games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

 

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out. For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

CHILDREN LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE

It’s clearly not difficult to introduce children to different words for various objects. Whether a “dog” is labeled a “Hund” (German), “chien” (French), “perro” (Spanish) or “cane” (Italian) will not matter to a child. Children remember a new “label” easily and correlate it to its picture or sound, as long as they hear the foreign word often and consistently.

 

Children that grow up bilingually have no problem retaining both languages, as long as they continue to use them.

Research has demonstrated the benefits of learning more that one language as a child. One important benefit is that the foreign sounds children hear in their early years are retained by them, even if they stop using the language.

 

Thus, exposing children to the sounds of a foreign language as they grow up will make it easier for them to relearn that language later on.

SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING GAMES FOR CHILDREN

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

 

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

 

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

 

Children as young as 2 1/2 or 3 can start with simple games, matching pictures with the audio of foreign words.

 

When children learn to read in their native language (ages 5-8), games can include simple words in their own language, plus audio of the foreign word.

 

Once children can read quite well (ages 9 and up), the games can be more challenging and include longer texts in the foreign language.

 

GAMESFORLANGUAGE

Although our Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners, we have found that many school-aged children have started playing them.

 

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

 

Through feedback, we have learned what works for young players:

 

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes also works well for children
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTVITIES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

It ‘s clearly a good idea for children to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just one tool.

Other favorites are songs, easy books, audio stories, board and card games, not to forget conversations with family and friends, at home or on FaceTime and Skype.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing “un deux trois” and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

 

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

How do you do languages at home with your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

Would you eat a Ratburger?

Hi my name is Jasmin and I am 9 years old. I will be reviewing Ratburger by David Walliams. The reason I got this book is because I have never read it before, and I like David Walliams’ books.


My favourite character is Zoe because she likes animals and she wants to train them to do tricks. Zoe had a hamster but it died, so now she has a pet rat which is a wild rat. She dreams that one day she will travel around the world with her animals that do tricks.

 

The main characters are Zoe, Zoe’s dad and Sheila (Zoe’s stepmum).

The character I would like to be is Zoe because she gets to try new ice cream flavours that her dad makes.

Sheila (Zoe’s stepmum) is very lazy and she only eats prawn cocktail crisps and makes a big mess. She is unkind to Zoe and and asks Zoe to pick her stepmum’s nose which is disgusting.

Zoe’s dad is very poor because he lost his job but at the end of the book he gets his job again.

Tina is a bully and lives next to Zoe.

Raj is a shopkeeper and gives things to Zoe for free because Zoe doesn’t have any money.

My least favourite character is Burt because he kills rats and makes them into burgers.

 

My favourite bit of the story was when Zoe’s rat did a trick for Zoe’s school talent show because everybody liked Zoe’s rat.

My least favourite bit of the story was when Burt wanted to kill Zoe because Zoe went into Burt’s warehouse to try and free the rats.

If I could change the ending of Ratburger I would change it to  Zoe’s dream coming true. She would travel around the world with her animals that do tricks.

 

The book was sad and a little bit scary because Burt wanted to kill Zoe and also Zoe’s hamster died.

I would recommend this book because it is very enjoyable and it is a very interesting book.

 

It was such a good book that it only took me one day to read it and I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know what happened next.

 

Check the link below to get your own copy.

 

 

Language tuition from Lingotastic

Preparing you for language learning success!

Preparing you for language learning success!

At Lingotastic we believe that language learning can and should be child’s play. You’ll probably know that traditional classroom learning does not work for many learners in the real world, and as research shows, the best way to learn any language, is the same way you learnt your first language: as a natural, fun part of everyday life.

For this reason, we are very excited to offer language tuition, making our unique approach available to a wider age range, and combining it with the best elements of traditional language teaching.

It’s all about helping you become the best learner you can possibly be. Based on our own language learning experience, having learned around a dozen languages to various levels of fluency, we can help you discover how you learn best. Our tuition is delivered by an experienced tutor with secondary MFL teaching experience.

We will get you ready for that exam or holiday!

 

Get in contact today to discuss options.

 

language-books-229x300Languages offered:

  • French
  • German

More to come, please inquire.

 

Pricing:

The price for a 60 minute 1:1 tutoring sessions, within a 10 mile radius of Chesham (Bucks.) is £30.

We may charge extra to travel further.

Tuition is available for all the following:

  • Primary (KS1 & KS2)
  • Secondary (Key Stage 3)
  • GCSE (KS4)
  • A-Level (KS5)
  • Adult Learner

Group tuition is also available to help you spread the cost:

  • Small Group (2-5 students): £40
  • Large Group (6-10 students): £50

Online tuition is available at a reduced rate of only £20 per 60 minute session

Contact Mike@Lingotastic.co.uk to find out how we can help you achieve your language learning goals.

 

A very German Easter

As a German-English family we like to include traditions from both cultures in our Easter celebrations so we celebrate both a German Easter and English Easter.

The first Easter I spent in Germany, I was astounded by all the beautiful Basteln (crafts) and Osterschmuck (Easter decorations). Walking around the neighbourhood, I saw many Osterbäume (Easter trees) festooned with Ostereier (Easter eggs). Many of the houses also had beautiful Fensterbilder (homemade window decorations).

I love crafts and decorating so I brought home many materials, magazines and templates to make our own Easter crafts.

In the week leading up to Easter we go up into the loft to bring down our decorations, which grow in number each year. Last year we were in Germany for Easter, so we brought home some beautiful decorations. My favourite is the Osterkranz (Easter wreath): I love the pastel colours and it is something not often seen in the UK. It was also an absolute Schnäppchen (bargain)!

 

We love to decorate a branch with brightly coloured eggs. We decorated our own plastic ones with pens the first few years. We’ve bought more plastic ones to add to our collection in following years. As we decorated it this year, my older daughter started to talk about the Osterbaum. I was surprised she still remembered the word.pic

In our home we know it is almost Easter as Oma’s Osterpaket arrives from Germany. It is brimming with lots of yummy German food and chocolate, ready for Easter.

Pic

Before Easter my girls often make Easter bonnets to wear to school.

On Karfreitag (Good Friday) we go to church as a family to think about Jesus’ death on the cross, and what that means to us personally.

My husband has described Karsamstag in Germany to us, with the lighting of the Paschal candle to mark the period from Easter to Pentecost. Many churches also have an Osterfeuer, which dates back to pagan times: a time for the young people of the church to have fun together.

On Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) our children get up to find their baskets filled with Chocolate (Osterhasen) Easter Bunnies (must be Milka) and lots of delicious things zum Naschen. We also buy them an English Easter egg in a box. Maik, my husband, always had a few small gifts for Easter so we’ve continued this tradition with our own children – usually a book, stationery, or something they have asked for in the run up to Easter.

We all head to church together to celebrate Easter with our church family. It is a very special service with music, dance, and readings where the whole family is involved.

At some point in the weekend we have an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
As spend time playing games together.

As Monday is a Bank holiday in the UK, we take time to have a roast dinner together and head out for a walk in the afternoon.

Some years at Easter, we have visited my family in the Yorkshire Dales. My parents have friends who are sheep farmers, so we have been lucky enough to watch a lambing and help bottle feed the orphan lambs.

To me, Easter is a time of hope, of celebrating that the dark days of winter are over and the days are getting lighter and longer.

As we have two cultures and languages in our family, I think we are so much richer for embracing them both.

How does your family celebrate Easter?

Would Language exchange help your family language learning?

We met the folks from Lingoo at Language Show Live back in October. We champion the same cause: empowering learners by giving them the right tools to make language learning so natural and enjoyable that it doesn’t actually feel like learning at all. We were so excited when he agreed to write us a guest post, so over to Peter.

Whether you and your family have some second-language skills or none At all, it’s pretty obvious that if you wish to develop those skills.And enter the ranks of LLL’s (Lifelong Language Learners – we love an Acronym in this day and age), you need to get yourself over to the Country where the target tongue is spoken. Job done? Second language ‘in the bag’? Not always the case…A frequent disappointment for those who visit their country of choice Is that they don’t always get the opportunity to try out their Language skills. (“Everyone spoke English on holiday”, “Authentic? We Could have been anywhere!”, “My son spent the whole of his school Exchange with his friends” amongst the all too familiar frustrations.) Maybe this wasn’t the hub of culture and language you were hoping For…

family of four in their back yard

10 years ago, Lingoo was born of a simple solution: putting learners In touch with hosts, in family settings, for holidays or exchanges.Demand was immediate and continues to grow, as more and more families Seek to spend their precious free time on holidays that tick all the Boxes, from authenticity and originality to adventure and fulfillment. So how does it work? Lingoo.com is designed to put you – the parent -Firmly in the driving seat of the matching process, guiding you Through that process to ensure that from the good number and broad Choice of hosts available, you’ll land on the doorstep of the very Best host and environment for you. The fact that these families are on Our website means you can be pretty sure they share your open-minded Outlook on life but add to that your ability to search by Lingoo.combasics (language, location, age of children) and specifics (interests, pets, Religion, diet …) and there’s no pot-luck about it. With stringent Host-vetting procedures in place too, registrants can also rest Assured that their security is safeguarded. Much of the feedback we receive centres on the overwhelmingly positive Impact on children. It’s certainly true that there is no better Environment than an immersive language holiday to see our inquisitive Little ones in sponge-mode (and if only you could bottle the wide-eyed Wonder – “They have _THAT_ for breakfast?!”). Even older children who Are more inclined to feel self-conscious are likely to see the very Point of all that time spent nose-in-textbook. Watch them pat Themselves on the back as they pull a vocab gem out of the bag (and Remember to take some of the credit yourself: you the parent are in Full role-model mode here… a love of languages, a sense of place, an Ability to step out of your comfort zone, we could go on…).

Whereas most family adventures come with a grisly price tag, Lingoo.com effectively facilitates exchanges within the ‘sharing Economy meaning our users can reap the benefits for low-to-no cost. Language exchangers pay only an annual registration fee and those Embarking on language homestays (so not hosting in return) simply add That to a fixed price for being hosted. Were this cost in the Commercial world of holidays, you would have every reason to question Very low pricing; here, a pro-sharing mentality means many of our Hosts are happy to welcome guests for surprisingly small financial return. Whatever’s on your wish-list, visit for inspiration And guidance on arranging a language homestay for you and your LLLL’s (Little Lifelong Language Learners – sorry). Let’s keep those language Fires burning bright for the next generation.

Inspirational mum Meghan Fenn

This month’s inspirational mum in business is Meghan Fenn, the author of Bringing Up Brits, and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs. I’m really excited to interview another multilingual mum in business, so here it is.

Q: What’s your career background?

I started out as an ESOL teacher and taught in Prague for two years and then in Tokyo for two and a half years. I taught both children and adults and had an amazing time learning new languages and cultures and meeting lots of different people from all walks of life. I studied English and Art at University and the original plan after graduation was to teach abroad for one year, then go back to the States, get my Masters degree and get a job. Within the first few days of leaving the States and starting a brand new life in a very different country, I met my future (now) husband, a British man from England. That changed my whole life. I ended up marrying said British man in South Carolina, USA, then moving back to England to continue my expat life.

Q: How did your career change after having children?

I did end up getting my Masters, but in England instead, and in Design Studies. After graduation I got a job as a senior Internet designer and worked there until I was made redundant while pregnant with my second child. Of course that also changed everything! I was 5 months pregnant so couldn’t even consider going for interviews, so I decided to start up my own web design company. I thought I’d freelance until after the baby, and then get a job part time as I’d have two babies under the age of two. Again, plans changed because my business really took off and within the first year, I had established a client base, a great reputation and had a constant stream of regular work coming in. I also loved working from home which gave me the flexibility to look after my young children and not have to pay out for full-time expensive childcare. Working from home around my family really suited me.

Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?

There are two parts to my answer because I’ve since started up a new company. So the idea for my first business came directly from what I was doing as an employed designer. I simply started project managing my own web and graphic design work and clients. I advertised in the Yellow Pages and spread the word through client referrals and my website. There wasn’t any social media back then so I had to rely on advertising and getting the word out there through happy clients. I managed to grow organically and keep a steady business going around the demands of a busy young family. Fast forward 10 years, a move from the Midlands to Sussex, and one additional child and I was ready to take my business to the next level. I had been working closely with a marketing and PR professional who I’d met at an awards event and throughout the 6 years of working with her, felt she could help me achieve my business goals. So, I asked her to join my company. She politely declined but suggested we start something new together 50/50. So that was how our company Shake It Up Creative Ltd was born. We do design, marketing, PR, websites, social media and search engine optimisation. We’re essentially a full service design and marketing company.

Q: How did you move from idea to actual business?

Originally, when I was starting out, I asked the nursery proprietor where my baby went, if she would like a website designed in exchange for free child care places. That was my very first job as a freelance web and graphic designer. Paid jobs came very quickly after that. I think once I decided to go for it on my own, I just picked up the phone, registered with HMRC, designed my logo and letterheads and invested my time and energy to make it a success.

Q: What’s your USP?

My USP has always been that I can do the graphic design AND the web Techie work too. That still is part of our USP. We can do it all or as little as you like and we’re flexible. So for example, we can do logo and branding right the way through to website and marketing and PR campaigns. Or, we can simply create a logo or stand-alone graphic design, copywriting or one off PR.

Q: How do you spread the word about what you do?

Through our website, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and at regular networking events.

Q: What’s been your most successful marketing/PR strategy?

Networking definitely. But also our #ShakeItHUB free design and marketing help sessions. We offer these to our local business community. They are open to all and people come to us with questions about their website, about a marketing campaign, for help with social media or anything design and marketing related. We give hands-on help with no obligation to ‘buy’ or take anything further. They are very popular and it helps to spread the word about our company and what we can do. It also shows people that we are experts and we know what we’re talking about and that we’re willing to help businesses.

Q: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

In the early days, it was balancing family life with a home-based office. You have to become very disciplined and use time wisely, work smart so when it’s family time, you can concentrate on that and not work. Now, it’s winning pitches in a very saturated market place. Worthing and Brighton have a huge number of marketing companies so there is a large amount of competition for us.

Q: Why is work so important to you?

I’m a creative person, I have a strong work ethic and I like to be productive. So work suits me. I also want to be a good role model for my children. I have a teenage boy, a teenage girl and a seven year old boy. They know I work, they know I run my own company. They like that and understand why I do it and how that benefits our whole family. Financially as well, we need to be a two parent income family in order to maintain the lifestyle that we want to have and give our children the best start in life as possible.

Q: Who inspired you?

Because I came here to live with no family or friends nearby (or even in the same country), I had to find inspiration from within. That is one reason I wrote my book Bringing Up Brits Expat Parents Raising Cross-cultural Kids in Britain. I wanted to share my story and inspire others and show them that they are not alone, that there are other parents out there doing the same thing and it’s hard. So hard! But if we find others who are going through a similar experience, we can find comfort and encouragement. Now, I’m inspired by my children and how amazing they are and how supportive they are of each other and of us (myself and my husband).

Q: How do you balance your business with your family?

I work full time around the children. So that means I work during school hours. I usually also work a few hours in the morning before they get up and some, not all, evenings. It’s tough running your own company because you’re always ‘on’ especially working from a home office. But it means I can be here for the children when they get home from school, I can do the after school clubs and activities and attend day time school functions. My children are at the age now where I can work (from home) when they are around. I have a room that is my office so I don’t have the chaos of working from the kitchen table. If they need me, they come get me. My eldest is very good with my youngest so during the summer holidays, for example, he can fix lunch for everyone and take my youngest out to the playground. I can also usually take days off here and there when I want to.

Q: What are your top three pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1. Network in person – this will help you to gain new clients, spread the word about your business and also, very importantly, find people who can help you get set up (such as a trusted accountant or business development expert). Be open to collaboration, service exchanges and coffee meetings to get to know potential clients and business associates.
2. Try to launch with a USP. That will set you apart in a very highly competitive market.
3. Make your own logo, branding and website stand out. People will want to see your expertise and you can show this through your own designs for your own company before you have a significant portfolio to showcase.

If you want to get in touch with Meghan
Meghan is co-director and chief designer, Shake It Up Creative www.ShakeItUpCreative.com
Author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs
www.bringingupbrits.co.uk
www.expatsinbiz.com

If you want to buy your own copy of her books check out the links below

Language learning is THE best way to make friends.

I originally wrote this blog two years ago as a guest post for FlashSticks. I’ve brought it up to date now. It’s exciting to see how my language learning has progressed in that time…

I’m starting to realise I may be a bit of language nerd. I’ve been thinking recently as to why people learn a language. I think for me the greatest reason is that it gives me the chance to make friends. I’m a really relational person and language learning is great for this. As Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language it goes to his heart”

As I walk my children in to school I often say good morning in about four languages to the other parents and children. dzień dobry, bună dimineața, jó reggelt, As- Salàmu ’Alaykum, доброе утро, dobrý deň, Guten Morgen, zăo sháng hăo !

At my children’s school, there are parents and children whose main languages are Polish, Hungarian, Mandarin, Russian, German, Romanian, Slovak, Urdu, Arabic, Ukrainian or French.

In September, my daughter returned to school, after the summer holidays. She had three children in her class who’d just arrived in the country and spoke no English. The children taught each other to say “good morning” in their own languages. I was really impressed by this mutual language teaching at age 7 and also the way the new children were welcomed into the class. I decided I could do this too, and learn to say at least good morning or simple greetings in these languages.

I started to chat to the new families and learned how to say good morning. I thought language learning would be a great way to get to know other families in the school. It’s been a fun journey. I’ve spoken the wrong language to people a few times and sometime pronounced so badly they did not know what I was saying! The Urdu and Arabic speaking mums automatically respond to me with “Wa ’Alaykum us Salam,” then realise it’s me speaking and look a bit confused or giggle! In time they’ve got used to it though!

On the whole people have been really pleased to teach me a few words of their language and laughed with me as I stumbled over the new expressions. It empowers them and builds their confidence as they are the experts in this area. Some of the mums are new to the country, learning English, and they like the fact that I take the time to talk with them and try to understand what they are saying. I, myself have struggled with communication in other languages, so I’m patient!

Cup of tea anyone?

I’ve discovered our local Big Issue seller is Romanian and she has taught me:

Hello Buna dimineata

Goodbye La revedere

I’ve been practicing and improving my Polish with the help of the staff at the local Polish Deli. Through spending time with them I’m getting to know them better especially those who only speak a little English. Other customers in the shop are noticing, too, and will speak to me in Polish if they see me on the High Street, which I love.

I’ve a few Thai girl friends so I always greet them with Sawatdee-kah.

We have Greek friends in church so I greet them with Καλημέρα Τι κάνεις: I’ve also discovered a few of my friends speak Afrikaans so I try my Dutch on them, which often works. In my daughter’s new school we have Spanish, Hungarian and Portuguese speakers, so I try to use these languages whenever I can.

I’ve met Russian, Swedish and Tagalog speaking parents at my local mums and toddlers group and am slowly learning words from them.

I’m enjoying building my own language skills and making friends, too. Do you have anyone you can get to know better by learning their language? I’d love to know how it goes!

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